As with all things in life, balance is important! This includes the pH in your swimming pool. Too much acid and it’ll corrode metal finishing and pipes, not to mention the skin irritation it causes, but too alkaline and it will cause scaling and murky water. Both situations are unpleasant, not to mention unsafe, and lead to the question of how do you raise the pH in a pool and get it back in balance?

Because of the other chemicals like chlorine added to the water to keep a swimming pool clean, we don’t want to aim for exact neutrality in maintaining the alkalinity of a pool. A healthy range is between 7.2 and 7.8, with 7.4 being the sweet spot. If your pool is reading low, adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or soda ash (sodium carbonate) can bring the pH back up to the ideal 7.4.

ph in pool

The whole reason to have a pool is to swim in it and have fun. Everyday and perfectly normal things can throw off the balance of your pool, which can lead to a much less fun swimming experience. Keeping a close eye on the chemistry of your pool water will help you correct the small changes before they become big problems. Like finding maggots!

The pH scale goes from zero, which is a completely acidic solution, to 14 which is a completely basic or alkaline solution. Right in the middle we have seven, which is where the neutral balance is. With swimming pool water we need to add chemicals to keep things sanitary, so that means we want a pH level a little above neutral.

Let’s take a look at pool pH and how to bring it back up to normal when it gets knocked down!

Problems With Unbalanced pH

The effects of a pH level that is not in balance can really make for a not fun time swimming, which is the last thing we want from our swimming pools. There are problems with moving away from neutral territory in either direction.

If there is too much acid, or a low pH, the water can corrode the surface materials, especially metals. It will also cause skin and eye irritation for swimmers, distracting them from their fun.

When there is too much alkaline- a high pH level- it can cause cloudy water. That might not seem so bad, but the cloudiness is actually from minerals that can cause scaling on the pool equipment. This is a big problem for pool machinery like pumps, as they can clog and break if the scaling is bad enough.

Both ways, too high or too low, change the effectiveness of chlorine. It doesn’t do its job of killing germs and bacteria if the water is too alkaline, and the chlorine will evaporate too quickly if the water is too acidic, so you will have to replace it more frequently. 

Being out of balance can be both dangerous and expensive. 

What Causes pH Problems in Pools

There are several possibilities when it comes to what can cause problems with the pH and most of them are completely natural. Rain water is naturally a little acidic, so if there have been heavy rains recently, it’s likely that your pH levels will be lower. Other outside debris can also bring the levels down.

If you’re using your pool a lot it’s also likely that the pH is going to be off. When lots of people are exercising, they are sweating. That sweat getting in the water will lower the pH, and you will need to make adjustments to raise it.

It could also come down to human error, as well. The instructions for use on pool chemicals are not always clear, and so adding the wrong amount of pool maintenance chemicals is an easy mistake to make. The most likely culprit is muriatic acid, which is good for treating pool water, but can make it acidic if you get too much in there.

In any of these cases you may find yourself asking how do you raise the pH in a pool. Well, read on!

How to Raise the pH Level in a Pool

The next step is to figure out how much baking soda or soda ash to add. This is based on the amount of water in your pool, generally in gallons. The general rule is that for every 10,000 gallons you will need 6 ounces of soda ash, the most common additive, to raise the alkalinity .2 pH points. 

Baking soda is also good, but you may need to find a larger supply than your local grocery store. Check the packaging on brand name pool chemicals – you will find that some of them are actually sodium bicarbonate. Baking soda!

Once you’ve double checked your math to make sure you’ve got the right amounts, measure and dilute the soda ash or baking soda in clean water before adding it to the pool water. Poor it in slowly around the edge of the pool, not all in one spot. You will also want to be sure that the pump is running, so that the chemicals are distributed evenly.

Then you’ve got to wait about an hour to make sure it’s circulated properly. Test again and if the level hasn’t come up to the right spot, you can add some more.

It takes a little time for the water to settle back to normal, so it’s a good idea to wait about 6 hours for any cloudiness to go down and then retest your levels to make sure everything is back to where it’s supposed to be. Don’t let it go too long – definitely recheck it before 24 hours pass.

Check and Recheck Your Pools Water

To get the most fun out of your pool, it is important to have a regular maintenance schedule and check the chemistry of your pool often. With the regular habit, you will start to be able to anticipate when you will need to make adjustments.

It’s also good to remember that test strips do have a shelf life, so make sure that you replace your test kit at least once a year. If they aren’t giving an accurate reading, you can’t maintain the proper levels. You don’t want to add things you don’t need or the wrong amounts because your test kit was off.


No matter what you do, sometimes the balance of the water is going to be off and you will have to ask “how do you raise the pH in a pool?”

If you make regular checks and adjustments, it’s easy to get things back to normal. It’s a continual process, but it’s worth it for a clean and sparkling pool.

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